International Women's Day - 2020

Women have often been aligned with nature, but rarely in a complimentary way. This international women's day, we will have a look at how environmental issues are feminist issues...
Woman is a violent and uncontrolled animal"
Cato the Elder, c.200BC
I cannot conceive of you to be human creatures, but a sort of species hardly a degree above a monkey"
(Letter to a Young Lady) J. Swift, 1723
Nature intended women to be our slaves... they are our property; we are not theirs. They belong to us, just as a tree that bears fruit belongs to a gardener..."
Napoleon, c.1800

Women have often been aligned with nature, but rarely in a complimentary way.

Yet the role that women play, both in how they are affected by the unfolding natural crisis and how we can be saved from it has never been more important.

Even now, in the UK, women are still on average more likely to live in poverty than men, to be paid less than their male counterparts, and to spend a greater proportion of their life in poor health than men. (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2018; British Medical Association, 2018). The life expectancy of the poorest women in the UK has, in the last decade, seen a decline as revealed in the recent and shocking report by the Institute of Health Equity (2020).

Val Plumwood writes in her Feminism and the Mastery of Nature:

“As the free water we drink from common streams, and the free air we breathe in common, become increasingly unfit to sustain life, the biospheric means for a healthy life will increasingly be privatised and become the privilege of those who can afford to pay for them. The losers will be (and in many places already are) those, human and non-human, without market power, and environmental issues and issues of justice must increasingly converge.”

IWD

Essentially, environmental issues are feminist issues.

However, women in the UK are increasingly in a better position than ever to be able to influence and change the world for the better. Whilst there is still a way to go for getting equal gender representation in the Houses of Parliament, there are now more female MPs than ever, with 220 elected in December 2019. Kent Wildlife Trust’s Head of Advocacy, Julia Hunt, is working closely with Kent’s MPs (7 out of 17 of whom are women) to inform and shape discussions around national issues such as the Environment Bill, an Agricultural Bill, and Marine Strategies. We hope that our female representatives recognise not only the importance of restoring nature, but how the assault on nature is also one on the most vulnerable in society.

There is also a shift in the gender dynamics of the financial world. "Women have more financial power than ever before, with more than 60% of the UK’s wealth expected to be in their hands by 2025," explains Karen Frank, CEO of Barclays Private Bank and Overseas Services. (March 2019)

Whilst action to protect and restore nature on a massive scale must be committed to by government, industries, and local communities, to be able to facilitate the action required funding is essential, and the philanthropists and investors of the UK will play an essential part in this. I am greatly optimistic that the growing number of women in this position of power will understand and commit to fighting our current environmental crisis both as a threat to our very existence and in particular as a threat to the women who find themselves in positions of vulnerability. By protecting and restoring nature, we can also lift each other up.

IWD